YABRR: Running the Rose 2021 Edition
Updated: Feb 10, 2021
AKA: Running with Fifi
After reading everyone else's race report, I almost didn't bother with writing one. It would start that same way, with a great big "thank you" to our friends and loved ones who came out and supported us crazy runners as we do what we do best (or worst, or somewhere in between). I'm not going to even come close to thanking everyone, so I'll just thank everyone and Shellene.
I do really need to thank Agustin as well, since I used his patented and proven training plan for this race.
And now, the fluff
I love racing Running the Rose, it's where my friend Fifi usually comes out and runs with me. That always makes for a good day. This year I was a bit concerned going in, since I have only managed one long run since Loup Garou, due to work/Covid. I did manage to get in some shorter faster runs (not something I normally do) so I knew I had some leg speed, and since I didn't run either Bandera or Ouchita my legs were fresh. So that set the strategy I would use for this race. Go fast and die early (wait, that's my normal race strategy anyway). I figured I could hold it together for at least one, maybe two loops and then just wait for someone to catch me - working my way backwards through the pack. Fifi would have none of that.
The morning started with the traditional (3 out of 4 years) ride to the start with Robin, got together with the DDR group for a bit and then right before the start decided to be on the front line. Last year I started last, and had fun playing through the field in the first 5 miles. With the unknown trail conditions I decided not to play that game, since I didn't want to deal with any slip-and-sliders. I was in my Salomon Super Cross, the perfect shoe for the conditions, didn't slip in the mud once. Led all the way through the first climbs and down the "wall" section by the campground. As we were going down that little section one of the faster runners didn't know the course and decided to pass me as I veered to the left to avoid the drop off. He figured it out fast enough to jump back in line instead of to his death. One the long climb out, he and another runner took off, followed by Trevor (who appeared to be playing a waiting game). I'm holding a good (for me) tempo heading towards Old Road when I hear Jamie Reichler say hello from behind. We chatted for a bit, and then he had to answer the call of nature so he dropped off.
Jamie is a runner out of Colorado, and he is a much smarter runner than I am (and faster, but I think I'm better looking). His strategy is simple, run a solid pace for the first 3/4s of the race, then pick it up. He's strong enough to do that. So, when he said he had to take a break, I knew what he was really telling me. Translate: "I've got to pee" into "You are going way too hard, way too early and I am NOT going to play your game"
So, continuing on down the trial, ran past Old Road, up the hill on "B", down to "A" and then up to EZ-Loop, all at a good pace. I saw Trevor, still in 3rd place, about 1/2 mile ahead of me on EZ, which is how he looked to be running. Finished the first loop in 1:42:23 (I won't say how much faster that was than my previous loop PR, but Fifi was proud), did a quick turn and hammered again. I always love the second loop at RtR, mainly because of the timing. I usually hit the long downhill on "B" as the mid-pack 11 milers are struggling up it. This year I hit closer to the front pack, so they got to be treated to one of my yells of "A-Train Ain't Got No Brakes" as I hammered down it all out (as is tradition, my second decent was the fastest of the day for me). One of the runners I saw doing the 11 miler is Jonathon a fast road runner out of Wylie doing his first trail race, I hope I didn't scare him that badly. I finished the second loop at 3:37:33 (a 2 loop record for me) and was still feeling strong, I dropped some gear off at the DDR tent and headed back out. I caught up to Andrew and Ellie (much to Andrew's regrets), and showed them the proper way to run up the hill leading to the switchbacks: screaming all the way. Stopped for a second to let them catch up and chat, then went back into my run. For some reason, Ellie decided to run with me (don't they warn people anymore). This was her first ultra, and she was actually running well. We got to the long climb on "B" and I didn't slow down to a walk, she ran it with me. I told her that this was good training, since even if she blew up she had plenty of time to recover and still finish her 54k, but on a longer race "if you won't run it at mile 80, don't run it at mile 8". Shortly after that Jamie caught us, and we ran with her in the middle. She got a little of the strategy discussion between Jamie and I, and how his is actually the better strategy, and then he pulled to the front and started moving. At one point on a climb, Ellie said "I need to walk", so we walked (I didn't want to kill her, too much paperwork). As we came toward the finish of the loop I spotted Jason and warned him that he was about to be "chicked". He followed us to the finish, where I spent a few minutes changing gear. 3 loops in under 5:50, 3rd fastest 50k (1st was DUM, 2nd was at LG100).
At the start of loop 4, it was just back to Fifi and I, and we were still working well as a team. Things started to go a little "wrong" with my breathing, where it felt like I was gasping for air even though I was running easy and consistently with a steady HR. That didn't last long though, but it was a bit disconcerting. It wasn't the lack of training that I'd been waiting for, but I figured that was coming real soon. As I got to the old road, I spotted Michelle ahead of me. We'd chatted a bit online, but I hadn't seen her since LOViT, so I slowed down. She was dealing with an Achilles issue, so her plan was to walk the uphills, run the flats/downs, finish the 54k and pull the plug. We ran/walked from Old Road all the way to the "A" loop just chatting and catching up. That three mile stretch let me recover and everything started feeling "right" again (as right as you can feel 35 miles into a race), and after a bit we got passed by Matt. I was actually a bit concerned that I hadn't seen him all day, considering the fun we had running together last year. I decided that it was time to play again, said "goodbye" to Michelle and started chasing Matt.
For those who have never run with Matt, he is a machine with 3 gears. His flatland gear is solid and fast, his downhill gear scares me (I refuse to be in front of him, I can't run fast enough to not get run over) and his uphill gear is a fast walk. He doesn't really power hike the hills, he just walks up them at a good pace.
We finished loop 4 together, using him as the pace setter. I could have run away from him on the climbs, but he'd have caught me on the downhills anyway. As we were getting ready to start loop 5, Trevor was getting ready to start loop 6. I told Shellene to expect me back in 2:30 It was time to eat up some miles, which is the best way to describe loop 5. For the most part Matt and I ran it together, again at his pace. He had to make an emergency stop right before the "A" loop, but caught me just past the Blackjack Aid Station, as I was standing still. It appeared that my lack of endurance training was finally catching up to me. Matt made sure I was ok, then off he went. I took a few minutes to collect myself, eat some Fig Newtons and then started moving again. My body responded to this quite well and was able to spot Matt ahead of me, once he saw me he waited until I caught up and we finished the loop together. We actually ran it in about 2:20, so Shellene wasn't there, but Sam took care of filling my bottle as I ate and drank.
Loop 6, the race of truth.
One of the many things I love about road cycling is the time trail. Just the racer, the course and the clock. When we started loop 6 I had 2:10 on the clock to finish Sub-13 and I told Matt that was my goal. He told me that I'd have to run the uphills, and we'd see each other at the finish. So, it was just Fifi, the clock and I. At one point early on Loop B I was closing with Hans and Stephanie and Hans called out "here he comes", to which I responded "and there he goes". I wish I had had some time to chat, but I knew it was going to be close even at this part of the course. I hit the long climb, and decided to take advice that I had given so many times in the past, eat on the climbs. So, I walked up the "B" climb, eating as I went, caught another runner for a bit and then Matt caught me again as we were dropping down to "A". He commented that we were a lot farther on the loop this year without lights, and said that he'd slow down once he needed his lights. We ran for a bit together with me in front, since there were climbs coming and off I went. Made it to within a mile of the start of EZ-Loop before I had to turn on my headlamp. From there it was run as hard as I could, and see where the clock was at the finish.
Probably less than a mile from the finish I passed two runners, the second one called out my name as I went by. I heard my name, but couldn't put that together with the fact that I had just passed a runner. Every last brain cell was focused on one of three things.
1. Don't fall
2. Run faster
3. It really don't hurt
What made it worse I didn't recognize the runner, and Jamie has a distinctive voice.
I came around the final corner, saw the clock and put everything I had into the sprint, crossing the line at 12:59:57!
When Rob showed me the results, I noticed that Jamie wasn't listed, yet saw him a few minutes later with his buckle and still didn't figure out that I had passed him. Matt came in a short time later as well.
I got to sit, eat food and get warm in Stephanie's tent, with Richard, Tracy, Shanna, Dylan and of course Shellene. I am still in shock that my endurance held up, I really expected a lot of walking out there, but it's Tyler and Fifi loves me.
So, I set my PR for 1, 2 and 3 loops, as well as breaking my course record by 25 minutes, maybe I need to stick with Agustin's training plan.